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Il Rovescio Della Medaglia - Contamination CD (album) cover


Il Rovescio Della Medaglia

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This Italian progressive rock band is absolutely IMPRESSIVE and unique. "Contamination" is the mix of expressive & sophisticated hard rock, progressive elements and classical Baroque arrangements. Like Osanna, another Italian progressive hard rock band, the electric guitar here is absolutely razor and aggressive, slightly approaching the ones on the first album of Rush. The disciplined hard rock tendency is really enhanced by an often dirty & distorted organ a la Jethro Tull - "Thick as a brick". The strings arrangements and harpsichord parts belong to the J.S. Bach departement. There are a couples of VERY poignant & POWERFUL church organ exhibitions: UNBELIEVABLE! The expressive and lively lead & backing vocals are a strong point on this record. The more mellow bits are maybe sometimes too empty and lengthy, although some very good flute parts add some delicateness & subtlety to the album. I remove 0.5 star because of the many empty pauses and because of the presence of some unconvincing experimental parts.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Report this review (#6390)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Definitely their best effort. This is the english version released in 1975, maybe too late to hit foreign charts with a mix of classical and rock music. It's not a surprise that they decided to split soon after.
Report this review (#6387)
Posted Friday, April 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars R.D.M. means in english: THE FLIPSIDE OF THE MEDAL. To say that there's always something behind one. In this case, it's true. Behind a total no-name band lies a truly odd record. Odd, indeed, but good in a level that makes you wonder where it was all your life. It's the kind of record that's really rejoycing to finally possess. A shot in the dark, hell freezes over, a monkey writes Hamlet and other metaphores to describe this band out of nowhere. I'm not even sure this record exists in CD. My father-in-law had a 'mint condition' LP in his closet. I made a copy on casette and it's fairly acceptable. Man these guys are good. I mean, GOOD. I don't wanna compare to P.F.M. or Le Orme, but R.D.M. really kicks some nasty italian tomato butt. WOW. Hard to believe Chef Rocco is from that country. They blend true classical movements into a song and then layers a killer Black Sabbath guitar riff on top. Sounds weird but reminds me of the neo-classical revival in the early 80's (Blackmore, Malmsteen Inc.). Wow, I finally found the grandfathers of neo-classical. I'm telling you, at first it sounds weird and chaotic, but rewarding in a few weeks. You won't regret buying it, even if it's only to brag to others that you stick to an obscure, but totally cool, gifted band. The vocals could be punchier and clearer, but so is PFM's (is every italian band like this?). Also, only exist in italian on CD version. Yes my friends, R.D.M. is a cool, sophisticated, heavy-rocky blend of the history of Bach. Try it when you see it and tell me about it. Becomes addictive...just like italian food (but not Rocco's). MAMMA MIA! * MAGNIFICO 5 STELLAS *
Report this review (#6388)
Posted Saturday, May 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Looks like RDM wanted to do what PFM did and that was to break in to the international market by recording an album they already did in Italian in English. In this case, "Contamination", the English language version of "Contaminazione". Like "Photos of Ghosts", my complaint about this album is the English language doesn't come naturally for these guys, hearing these songs you can tell they were meant to be sung in Italian. Regardless this is still a nice combination of classical (specifically that of Bach), symphony orchestra (conducted by Luis Enriquez Bacalov) and of prog rock. Given all the pieces are very short, one wishes they were longer to allow the band to really take off, but they are effective for what they are. Many of them are either interludes or experimental pieces that lead to the actual music. While the hard rock of "La Bibbia" and "Io Come Io" are pretty much history, you can still hear some of those elements in the heavier guitar passages. Still they stick to that classical/prog style. Nice album, but probably go for the original "Contaminazione".
Report this review (#6389)
Posted Monday, August 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hmm, I think this one is a little overrated. It's got some killer riffs, and some fine moments. But I can't see the icon status it sometimes gets. Kind of a frankensteinian approach to the classics, ELPish in concept but highly focussed on Bach rather than Bartok and Mussorgsky. The keyboard player is a monster. There were many Italian bands that were so much better. Good, but only after you get about 50 other Italian classics.
Report this review (#38471)
Posted Monday, July 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
3 stars In my opinion their third album entitled "Contaminazione" is their best. It is a fluent and symphonic record delivering great Italian vocals and a heavy Hammond organ sound that reminds Keith Emerson in his heyday but also Trace and Ekseption (both featuring Dutch keyboard-wizard Rick van der Linden). The instrumentation is very impressive: violin, harpsicord, heavy electric guitar, a violin section, piano, church organ and classical guitar. At some moments the music sounds a bit freaky or experimental but in general RDM plays melodic in the tradition of the Italian Seventies progrock, inspired by a certain J.S. Bach ("Toccata in D-Fuga").
Report this review (#41404)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Several top Italian bands released English versions of their genuine italian albums (PFM, Banco, or Le Orme but not only).

This variation of Contaminazione which is just the best album from Il Rovescio Della Medaglia is as outstanding as their original and Italian release. The combination with these classic themes and symphonic prog ones are so gorgeous!

Since the original album was heavily instrumental, the switch to English vocals has very little impact in terms of quality of the songs featured. The album is just as great as its counterpart.

Unlike some of the other bilingual works of their Italian friends, this one is almost a perfect mirror of the original. Since the English vocals are pretty decent, there are hardly any reason to rate this very good album with a lower rating. Four stars are so legitimate for this wonderful album. Whatever version you would pick up.

It is rather strange how the band has evolved in such a short period of time: from heavy prog-rock in their early days to such a wonderful symphonic music as it is featured in Contamination.

It is a pity (or maybe the best time to do so, who knows) that the band called it quit after such a good release. Four stars for Contamination.

Report this review (#184810)
Posted Sunday, October 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars By 1975, the golden era of Rock Progressivo Italiano had all but ended, leaving bands like Rovescio Della Medaglia at a crossroads; many folded up entirely, some formed new groups and went on to play jazz fusion (Etna, Il Volo, Baricentro, etc.), and a few sought the international market (PFM, Le Orme, Banco). RDM, willing or not, were lumped into that last category when RCA decided to milk every last drop of their classic 1973 album Contaminazione for all it was worth - by releasing an English-sung version for Europe and the US. RDM had essentially ceased to be a band by this point, having nearly all their equipment stolen resulting in an indefinite hiatus for most of 1974. A changing of the guard was occurring, as new groups like Maxophone, Arti e Mestieri and Agora were finding success with a hybrid of progressive rock and jazz like never before. Why the label had RDM overdub English lyrics on an already perfect album is anyone's guess; to me Contamination is like painting a smile on the Mona Lisa, but there are also unnecessary sonic choices that prevent the album from equaling its 5-star counterpart.

Reviewing a variation of an already classic album is challenging in that the music itself is not really subject to critique. The physical product in and of itself is the object being reviewed. And in this case, Contamination has some subtle, almost undetectable flaws that may not be apparent unless a side by-side comparison is done. Take for instance the initial surge of "Johann's Rock" aka "Il Suono del Silenzio" - the original sounds blisteringly heavy and crisp while the English version is a midrange mess, flat and compressed, atop with a pale imitation of those cavernously resonant vocals. By the time Luiz Bacalov's orchestration comes in, the harpsichord sounds listless and ordinary, and the strings lifeless. If you had never heard Contaminazione, it would be a non-issue and the impressive quality of the composition would shine right through...but the obsessive RPI clinician will notice right away, and always prefer the genuine article.

This is not to say the lyrics themselves are laughable and embarrassing - on the contrary - Contamination succeeds where earlier attempts by Osanna and Acqua Fragile failed. Here the affect is limited, and only a remnant of Italian accent is heard. The original lyrical concept is intact and even benefits from translation. Fortunate we are to have corresponding language copies of Maxophone, Felona and Sorona and Photos of Ghosts; in the case of mistakes like Ibis' Sun Supreme we will never be so lucky. But the fact that Contamination cannot stand on its own and is a supplemental purchase by nature prevents it from being essential in my book, the high level of music on display notwithstanding. Having said that, completists and those struggling with foreign-language prog will eat this up, and hopefully develop a more sophisticated palate because of it.

Report this review (#967657)
Posted Friday, May 31, 2013 | Review Permalink

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